If the photos accompanying the Beatles’ 1967 album Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band haven’t already garnered enough attention — the dead historical icons! Hollywood stars! Wax figures! — it’s now Ontario’s turn to examine the photos in detail.
Paul McCartney’s powder blue military-style uniform is sporting an OPP badge on his left arm, right under his bright yellow fringed shoulder pad.
Beatles historian and author, Piers Hemmingsen, has tracked down this piece of memorabilia’s history and he will dish on it and other Beatles Canadian trivia pre-concert Jan. 21 when Art of Time presents a live performance of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band at the Sony Centre. Accompanied by the Kitchener Waterloo Symphony Orchestra, singers Glen Phillips, Steven Page, Craig Northey and Andy Maize will present the album as it was originally recorded (with some extras added).
Long considered the first “concept album,” Sgt. Pepper’s created an alter-universe of circus performers and marching bands. Hemmingsen has written a book, "The Beatles In Canada — The Origins Of Beatlemania!” which is due out on Feb. 9. He points out that Canadians were fans of the Beatles long before their American cousins.
When The Beatles appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show in 1964, producers brought in members of the Canadian fan club because there wasn’t one yet in the U.S., Hemmingsen says. The retired computer programmer spent five years researching the book which includes details of the printing of the albums in Canada.
“It’s a totally Canadian story.”
His research reveals that during a visit to Toronto in 1964, four OPP arm badges were presented as a unique gift of appreciation by an OPP Corporal at Malton Airport to one of the three of The Beatles on Tues. Sept. 28. They were waiting to board their chartered plane bound for Montreal.
“George was not feeling well that day and chose to board the plane early as the other 3 Beatles stood in the sunshine on the tarmac waving to fans (who had skipped school that day) surrounded by their OPP security detail. It is likely that the four badges were received by one Beatle (Paul, John or Ringo), and simply stuffed in a bag.
“The badge must have been lying around on Paul's bureau for over two years before it beckoned him for use in early 1967.”
He’s saving the rest of the details for his book and pre-concert chat with Andrew Burashko, artistic director of Art of Time. Although Sgt. Pepper’s is not his favourite Beatles’ album, Burashko admits it has a deep resonance with music lovers. Those attending concerts on the groups’ North American tour cross three generations, he says.
“I love it, it’s so iconic.”
Although the singers are accompanied by a symphony orchestra, Burashko says “the original rock and rock spirit is intact.”
Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, Art of Time, Sony Centre, Jan. 21, 8 p.m. Tickets at ticketmaster.ca/Sony-Centre-for-the-Performing-Arts-tickets.
There is no pre-show talk Jan. 22, 23, 8 p.m., Centre In the Square, Kitchener, Tickets kwsymphony.ca/single/EventDetail.aspx?p=1800